As you design your website, pay close attention to its color scheme and how you’ll use it with white space. The right colors and coordination can help you create a visually appealing site that encourages people to stay and engage with your content.
Here’s what you should know about selecting colors for your website:
- The fundamentals of an appealing color scheme
- Why are website color schemes important?
- Types of color schemes
- 5 tips on picking a website color scheme
- 8 tools to help pick your website’s color palette
The fundamentals of an appealing color scheme
Selecting an appealing color scheme requires an understanding of the color wheel and color theory. With the color wheel, you can explore how different colors relate to each other, including how different combinations and gradients make other colors stand out and the types of feelings and emotions different colors elicit.
Whether you prefer working with bold colors, vibrant colors—such as bright blue or bright yellow—or softer colors, finding the right color scheme for your website is an important part of the design.
The following sections show how different colors interact and how you can plan the color scheme that will work best for you and your business.
What is the color wheel and how does it play into your color scheme?
A color scheme is the choice of colors you make for your website and use from an artistic or design standpoint. The color theory states that a color circle, or color wheel, can be used to select colors that will complement each other, creating a visually appealing design.
For example, some websites focus more on neutrals and work with a white background and muted colors, while others prefer a dark background and stronger color selections.
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Why are website color schemes important?
Seeing different colors can elicit different emotional reactions in people. Certain colors might elicit feelings of joy or urgency, for example. Therefore, businesses use color schemes to help them set the mood for their website and create stronger brand messaging.
The following sections present some benefits of using a website color scheme.
Increases brand recognition
When businesses consistently use the same color schemes across their branding materials, customers are more likely to recognize their brand. For example, 91% of people tested were able to identify Google by the colors used in their logo alone. Similarly, people can easily recognize Coca-Cola from its red color scheme.
Creating a distinct and consistent color scheme will help customers absorb your messages across different platforms, connect ads and promotions back to your brand, and otherwise help build their brand understanding.
Highlights important elements on your website
Using contrast in your color scheme can help you highlight particular areas of your website, such as a particular e-commerce webpage or CTA button. These color contrasts help your site appear more organized and help users differentiate between parts of the page. For example, if you have a side column that encourages people to learn more about a particular event or offer, using a color with a sharp contrast to the main part of your page can encourage people to look more closely.
The colors you select can also make the page easier for people to read and help direct people toward key pages or parts of the website where they can convert.
Generates an emotional response
Color psychology has found that people tend to associate different emotions and impressions with certain colors. Color psychology often begins by separating colors into two main categories. In the first—warm colors—you have colors that belong in the range of reds, yellows, and oranges. These warm colors encourage warm emotions, which range from comfort to anger.
On the other side of the spectrum, you have cool colors. These colors fall in the range of blues, greens, and purples. The cool emotions they are believed to invoke can range from calm and peace to sadness.
Many who appreciate color psychology also reference more specific associations with different colors, including:
- Red: Attention-grabbing, power
- Blue: Stability, trustworthiness
- Yellow: Happiness
- Silver: Modern, futuristic, high-end
- White: Pure, good
- Black: Sleek, powerful
However, keep in mind that different colors can have different associations in various cultures and contexts. Therefore, don’t be afraid to run A/B tests on parts of your color scheme, such as the color you select for your “Contact” button.
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Types of color schemes
To help you choose the most effective colors for your website, the following sections show common relationships between colors.
An analogous color scheme describes color selections closely related to each other, such as blues and purples or reds and oranges. They can be found near each other on the color wheel.
A monochromatic color scheme incorporates the different colors found within one hue. This type of color scheme selects a single base hue, such as blue, and then incorporates shades and tints to generate the other colors within the hue for the rest of the color palette. If you have a dominant color of dark blue and then incorporate shades of blue on your site, you’ve used a monochromatic scheme.
A complementary color scheme, or an opposite color scheme, uses pairs of colors that offer a sharp contrast to each other. If mixed together, these colors will create a grayscale color, like black and white. Red and blue serve as examples of complementary colors.
A triadic color scheme incorporates three colors evenly spaced on the color wheel. If you were to draw a line between the three colors, you would end up with an equilateral triangle connecting them. An example of this type of color scheme is orange, purple, and green.
A compound color scheme, also known as a split complementary color scheme, operates similarly to the complementary color scheme. However, instead of taking the color directly opposite the first color, it selects the two colors on either side of the opposite. This type of combination can help create a softer contrast than a complementary scheme and allows for more variety. You can see this type of color scheme with orange, purple, and teal.
5 tips on picking a website color scheme
As you prepare to select your color scheme, you have nearly limitless options available to you. The following sections outline a few tips on selecting a website color scheme.
Know what you want your colors to say
Begin by considering the message you want to send with your color scheme. What ideas and associations do you want to have with your brand? Do you want to communicate power and prestige? Or do you want to focus on creating an association with a happy family?
Once you know what you want your colors to say, you can begin to consider where on the spectrum you want your color scheme to fall.
Choose your primary color first
Next, begin by selecting your main colors. Look for a color that fits well with the strongest associations you want customers to have with your brand. This color will be featured the most prominently across your website. Once you have a primary color selected, you can play with a few different color combinations to accentuate this color and build a full color scheme.
Select a palette with some contrast
You want to select a palette that offers you opportunities to contrast your colors while still having them fit together nicely. Accent colors should pop while placed side by side but still complement each other. Look at where the primary color falls on the color wheel and the secondary colors that work well with the different shades you want to use.
Consider the aesthetic of your brand
As you select your brand colors, think carefully about the aesthetic you want to create with your brand. A business that works to emphasize modern and sleek through color doesn’t want a website full of excessive content. This might make their website appear too busy, hiding essential information among the clutter. A site where language, imagery, and colors work together will create the biggest effect on the minds of customers.
Test your color scheme across different devices
Once you have selected your color scheme, test it across different devices. See how it appears on mobile devices, desktops, and anywhere else customers might engage with your business’s website. This will provide you with the greatest insight regarding how the color scheme broadcasts your brand.
As the color scheme goes live, see how your target audience responds to it and its impact on conversions, site interest, and similar key performance indicators (KPIs) that can help you understand brand engagement.
8 tools to help pick your website’s color palette
As you work to align your color scheme, there are a number of design tools you can use to better evaluate particular website color palettes and see which one works for you. We’ll go over some of the most popular options that can help you get started.
You can use a color scheme generator while you work with a web design professional to select the best possible color scheme for your business website. Overall, these tools can help you better reach your target demographic and find the color codes that will create a branding template you’ll love.
Adobe makes it easy for those interested in finding a great color palette to explore different color combinations. Users can select the type of scheme they’d like to generate, such as analogous, complementary, or monochromatic. Users can also explore libraries with beautiful color schemes and trends to help them find a great palette.
Target user: Beginner and intermediate
Coolers offers users a variety of special features, such as the ability to pick palettes from a photo and explore popular options while generating their own palette. The site also offers add-ons and extensions to users to save and export their color creations. The site will generate different palette schemes or provide specific information about certain colors.
Target user: Intermediate
Paletton has created a color wheel designed for users of all levels. Users can use pre-generated color combinations or use the wheel to generate the best color to match their brand identity. The wheel can help generate monochromatic colors, adjacent colors, triad colors, and tetrad colors, or users can select four colors in a freestyle. As you select your colors, you can see a simulation that helps you understand how the colors might appear on a website.
Target user: Beginner to advanced
HueSnap allows users to select either a specific color and view all of the complementary colors and where that color will fall with different color palettes. Those who prefer to select a color combination based on a photo can also select that option. Your selections can then be shared across devices or with others. Site-generated color schemes can also serve as inspiration for users.
Target user: Beginner
Palettr operates in a slightly different way than some of the other tools. Users can use the search tool to enter keywords that help communicate important concepts related to their brand. For example, you might offer “family” or “modern.” The site will then generate color palettes based on that theme.
Target user: Beginner to intermediate
Canva Color Palette Generator
Canva specializes in allowing users to upload images and create a color palette based on the colors in the image. If you have a particular image that helps capture the essence of your brand, you can upload it to the site and extract the precise colors it uses. Additionally, users can also browse generated color palettes or work to generate their own.
Target user: Beginner
Khroma works to generate color palettes based on an algorithm that has learned from various human-made color palettes found within the digital ecosystem. The site has you select particular colors you like and then uses these preferences to generate palettes. You can also search for specific color combinations with different hues and tints.
Target user: Intermediate to advanced
Color Safe can be a particularly helpful tool for website designers because it helps generate palettes that are accessible for all users according to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Here, users can select an initial background color along with their font type and size and then select colors from options that will help them abide by these guidelines.
Target user: Intermediate to advanced
Choosing a color scheme can help brands create websites to attract users and encourage conversions. Working with a web designer, such as an independent professional through Upwork, can help brands tap into the full potential of color theory and color psychology—creating a scheme that aligns well with their message and attracts their target audience.
Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this section. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.
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